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November 25, 2021

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Passengers on the bus go ZZZ in Hong Kong

Most of us have experienced drifting off to sleep during a lengthy bus journey, but would you pay to do just that?

That’s the idea behind a novel tour bus business in Hong Kong billing itself as a possible cure for insomnia.

On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, about 70 passengers, ranging from excitable infants to silver-haired retirees, boarded two double-decker buses plying a “route to nowhere.”

One was a “quiet bus” where people could sleep, the second was a more traditional sight-seeing option.

The 85-kilometer trip started in a bustling Hong Kong district and made its way mostly on coastal highways to the city’s airport, which has seen a fraction of the usual traffic throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

While some passengers enjoyed the view, many adorned provided ear plugs and face masks and were soon fast asleep for the five-hour trip that includes stops at various scenic sites.

“I think everyone has experienced not being able to sleep at home, but they can sleep very soundly on a bus as the bus swings and vibrates,” passenger and quiet bus convert Ho Wai said during the trip.

“Every Hong Konger has stress from work, from affording a flat, from life, and now we can’t go traveling,” he added, referencing strict coronavirus quarantine rules that have kept Hong Kong largely cut off from the rest of the world.

“With all these stresses adding up, I think a lot of Hong Kongers aren’t sleeping well.”

Fellow passenger Matthew Chick said he’s had trouble sleeping in recent weeks and decided to give the journey a go.

But he struggled to peel his eyes away from the view.

“The weather today is too good to be sleeping,” the 29 year old said.

Tickets are priced between HK$99 (US$12) and HK$399, with upper deck seats carrying the higher price tag.

Frankie Chow, president of Ulu Travel and the entrepreneur who came up with the idea, said he tried to pick routes with as few traffic lights as possible to reduce stops that might wake passengers.

He sees the bus as serving two purposes — a potential nap for those struggling to sleep, and a bit of excitement for any Hong Kongers who want a bit of sightseeing at a time when the city is cut off internationally.

Hong Kong has maintained some of the world’s strictest quarantine measures and travel restrictions during the pandemic.

“In the past, I would go to the airport (to travel) each month,” a male passenger said. “Aside from sleeping, this tour gives us a sense of traveling.”


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